On Tuesday, Washington State Community College (WSCC) and the AmeriCorps Ohio College Guides, commemorated the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Among the speakers was Susan Vessels who serves on the College’s Board of Trustees and who herself is a Veteran. The following are the heartfelt and moving words she shared during the ceremony.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff, I welcome you to Washington State Community College and our 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony.
Thank you for attending this important event. I will begin by recognizing our special guests:
-Marine Corps League Sgt. Bob O’Malley Detachment 1436
-Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5108
-American Legion Post 64
-Congressman Bill and LeeAnn Johnson
-Sheriff Larry R. Minks, Sr.
-Daniel Baker, WSCC alum, veteran, and first responder
-Members of our local police, fire, and EMT
-Members of our armed forces
I would also like to recognize, and thank, our AmeriCorps College Guides and the Veteran’s Club for coordinating this event.
It is an honor to remember with you today.
The phrase “9/11” evokes a memory of a moment in our history where the world as we knew it changed forever. On that date, evil of immense scope became palpable once again. As four planes were turned into weapons of terror, we were all painfully reminded that freedom has never been, and never will be, free. May we never forget the 2,977 people who died – of those, 2,508 were civilians, 343 were firefighters, 71 were law enforcement, and 55 were military.
One of the civilians who died was Mary Lou Hauge. She graduated first in her Parkersburg high school class of 1992. She went on to graduate from college and worked as a banker. On the morning of September 11th, at age 26, she was working on the 89th floor of the South Tower. Today, we honor Mary and all the other innocents who lost their lives.
Since 9/11, 2.7 million service members have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and over half of those have deployed more than once. Millions more have borne the costs of war as spouses, children, parents and friends cope with their loved ones’ absence. To date, over 6,000 troops have died and 44,000 have been injured.
I personally remember Harold Brown, a friend and fellow Army officer who was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan in 2009. He left behind his wife, Janet, and three children, Paul, Lena, and Claire. Harold was a true American hero who served honorably, skillfully, and bravely according to his orders, no matter where they sent him.
I also miss Alan Rogers. Alan started his career at Santa Fe Community College and graduated from the University of Florida with a commission as an Army intelligence officer. On his second tour in Iraq, he died heroically, shielding two 4th Infantry Division soldiers in his Humvee from an attack. Alan was a man of conviction, a man of faith, and he was an example of selfless service for all.
While we recognize those who have passed, including Mary, Harold, and Alan, this ceremony is for the benefit of the living. So that we remember, honor, and ultimately seek to emulate the bravery of these otherwise ordinary people put into extraordinary circumstances.
John Stuart Mill, a 19th-century philosopher who famously wrote “On Liberty,” opined:
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
Thank goodness that, 17 years later, we still have “the better” men and women, police officers, firefighters, border patrol, soldiers, elected officials and many others, who in the face of attack, in the face of belittlement, are still willing to fight for America, for peace, prosperity and especially fight for the equal application of the law to all, regardless of position and power. It is these great people who have kept, and who must continue to keep our great nation as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”